Language policy within and without the School District of Philadelphia

David Cassels Johnson, University of Pennsylvania


Throughout American history, language policy has often hegemonically normalized English-only approaches to education. Currently, language policies like Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act seem to threaten bilingual education throughout the U.S., even though these programs offer students the chance to learn through two languages and are supported by psycholinguistic, sociolinguistic, and educational research. At the same time, the number of English Language Learners in U.S. schools has doubled in the last decade and thus this is a critical moment for developing educational systems which do not leave these students behind. In order to preserve bilingual education as an educational right and develop quality programs for English Language Learners, we need substantive research on how bilingual educators interpret and implement federal and state educational language policies while developing their own bilingual polices and programs. Following in the tradition of Critical Language Policy, this study critically examines the multiple layers through which educational language policy develops. As well, it incorporates anthropological and sociological conceptualizations of educational policy to buttress an ethnographic analysis of how local interpretations influence implementation and how practitioners become producers of language policy. With ethnographic and discourse analytic methods I focus on how a group of bilingual educators in the School District of Philadelphia interpret and implement national and state educational language policy texts and discourse while engaging in their own language policy creation and bilingual program development. While there is growing concern that bilingual education is being phased out of U.S. schools, the findings demonstrate that even within the confines of ostensibly restrictive educational language policy, local educators have power. Intertextual discourse analyses show how policy text and discourse which focus heavily on English language education, while concomitantly obfuscating minority language development, have been appropriated and instantiated by bilingual language policy and program developers in the School District of Philadelphia. Yet, the teachers' and administrators' varying beliefs about language education and language policy influence implementation of the same policy in varying ways.

Subject Area

Language arts|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Linguistics

Recommended Citation

Johnson, David Cassels, "Language policy within and without the School District of Philadelphia" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3260925.